SonyLIV’s new Tamil original web series, Victim, challenges the meaning of the word. A four-part anthology, it has segments directed by Chimbu Devan, M. Rajesh, Pa. Ranjith, and Venkat Prabhu. The impressive lineup of directors is matched with an equally talented cast that comprises names like Amala Paul, Priya Bhavani Shankar, Guru Somasundaram, Elizabeth Anton, Prasanna, Natarajan Subramanian, Thambi Ramaiah, Kalaiyarasan Harikrishnan, and M. Nasser.
While the cast is an eclectic mix, the stories, too, have an element of dark comedy. It works well with the idea of a ‘victim’ and what makes one so. Dhammam, Mirrage, Kottai Pakku Vathalum, Mottai Maadi Sitharum, and Confession are the names of the episodes, and they are self-explanatory in terms of the stories.
What stands out in nearly all the stories in Victim is the grey nature of victimhood. The stories will eerily remind you of an Edgar Allan Poe style of fiction, which causes unease and discomfort.
Even within the limited time frame of 30 minutes, Pa. Ranjith’s Dhammam manages to capture the rural equivalent of road rage when a random spat spirals out of control and ends up with a half-dead man in a field in a village in Tamil Nadu. A Gautam Buddha bust and lush green lands stand in contrast to the sudden spurt of violence that disrupts the serenity of the idyllic landscape. In a matter of minutes, everything spirals out of control. The violence is caste-based and mindless, and yet, ‘dhammam’, or compassion, is how the narrative ends. Compassion is shown by the most disadvantaged person in the story – a young Dalit girl.
Dark comedy, darker protagonists
In both Mirrage and Kottai Pakku Vathalum, Mottai Maadi Sitharum, the narrative is laced with dark comedy. While in the former, the typical near-horror story trope is effectively overturned, in the latter, it is the conning that takes the forefront.
Mirrage, starring Priya Bhavani Shankar, plays out in an almost diabolical yet comical manner. A young woman spends a harrowing night at an isolated hotel inhabited only by a caretaker (Natarajan Subramaniam). What plays out in the night becomes clear only the following day. In Kottai Pakku Vathalum, Mottai Maadi Sitharum, the only story set during the 2020 lockdown, scepticism gives way to curiosity over what happened the night after a famous seer visits a magazine’s sub-editor who runs a feature on the former in order to save his job.
In Confession, you cannot decide whether or not to side with the victim Anjena (Amala Paul) — or if she is even a ‘victim’. It is also the most ‘urban’ story of the lot, dealing with the repercussions of a hustle culture and the lengths one would get to for perks. As the story progresses, and a twist is added, you are contemplating if she is equal parts a perpetrator. This is a story with no absolute heroes and redemption.
What stands out for the series is a fresh take on our perception of who a victim is. Each director tries something new, that mostly lands with the audience. The runtime of 30 minutes in each episode is practical as it retains interest throughout. It also helps to hold the plot together whenever it weakens.
In terms of the actors, M. Nasser as the seer and the child actor in Dhammam stand out. So does Nataraj as the caretaker of the resort in Mirrage.
However, the stories do not necessarily feel deeply impactful or impressive, barring Ranjith’s one. They tick the box of innovation but you are left wanting more, especially since the anthology has been designed around victimhood. The show could have definitely tried to break a few glass ceilings, considering the quality of talent the show has given space to.
(Edited by Humra Laeeq)